WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Who may now kiss the bride when there are two grooms?
Since the state of California began issuing marriage certificates to same-sex couples earlier this month, questions about wedding rituals and etiquette — not just politics — have grown faster than a wedding reception guest list. With no long-established gay wedding traditions, partners-to-be and the wedding industry are making it up as they go along.
“I generally don’t see this type of excitement for weddings,” said Los Angeles-based wedding planner Wendy Rhodes, who’s coordinated two same-sex ceremonies since the ruling. “They’ve been dreaming about being able to actually get married for a long time, so these couples know exactly what they want.”
And what they want is immersed in tradition.
‘They want everything they possibly can have’
Rhodes said most wedding conventions — invitations, music, formal attire, cake, champagne — are finding their way into the same-sex ceremonies that her full-service wedding and events planning company has been hired to coordinate since the California Supreme Court’s ruling in May.
“I think same-sex couples have waited so long for this, they want the same things they’ve seen in the weddings of their friends,” said Rhodes. “They want a white wedding cake. They want flowers. They want good food. They want everything they can possibly have in their wedding. People all dream of the same things when they think of a wedding.”
Rhodes most recently organized a small wedding ceremony at the home of a lesbian couple who had been engaged for 24 years. Because many same-sex ceremonies are celebrating years of commitment rather the beginning of a new life together, their weddings are more personalized affairs, according to Kathryn Hamm, president of GayWeddings.com.
Out for most are wedding traditions like spending the night before apart or registering for new china.
Instead, same-sex couples are choosing rituals like writing their own vows and including family and friends in highly customized festivities — recent wedding trends that extend beyond sex and state lines.
“Same-sex couples don’t take this opportunity for granted,” said Hamm. “Generally speaking, same-sex couples don’t hide behind a basic ritual. It’s not a ceremony that’s read from the book. Obviously, lots of same-sex couples are amending tradition.”
More gay-friendly wedding services
Companies catering to same-sex couples are on the rise. Since the ruling in California, Hamm said she’s noticed a significant spike in gay-friendly vendors submitting their companies to be listed on GayWeddings.com, which provides information and resources for same-sex couples.
But figuring out who pays for the party, who walks who down the aisle and who gets the first dance is being left to the couple. Because same-sex weddings are still uncommon affairs, significant traditions haven’t emerged. Hamm said that requires same-sex couples to be more original, even when they chose to have a traditional ceremony.
Hamm said she attended a same-sex ceremony where the lesbian couple planned a comical take on a traditional wedding seating arrangement: There were two bride sections. Other same-sex spins on wedding traditions include walking each other down the aisle and both partners-to-be donning gowns or tuxedos.
“The more mainstream same-sex weddings become, the more routine they’ll become when it’s not this interesting, sensational new thing,” said Hamm. “The thing I’m curious about is what happens to all wedding ceremonies once there’s marriage equality. How will same-sex marriages change the landscape for heterosexual couples?”
In California, many same-sex couples are opting for smaller ceremonies now and bigger celebrations later. California voters could approve a proposition in November changing the state constitution so that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid.
If the ruling is overturned, it’s unclear what would happen to same-sex couples married before November.
The Rev. Neil Thomas, the senior pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church in West Hollywood, has officiated 15 same-sex wedding ceremonies in the two weeks since the ruling went into effect. What does he say when it comes to kissing the brides or grooms?
“I just say, ’You may now kiss,”’ said Thomas. “I don’t want to get into all that patriarchal stuff.”
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